The “experiential experience?” Really, Boston Globe?

Jugglers are part of the experiential experience at Faneuil Hall. Photo by Peter H. Dreyer.

There is awesome writing. There is just okay writing that does the job. And then there is writing that makes you stop and say, “What in hell is going on here?”

In an article about what’s to become of the venerable Boston tourist trap that is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Globe writer Dana Gerber included this comment from the marketplace’s former leader:

Joseph O’Malley, who oversaw the marketplace as general manager from 2016 until 2022, also blames the all-but-empty events calendar. “The experiential experience would bring locals there,” he said. “Right now, there’s nothing.”

“Experiential experience?” Really? You’re just going to lay down those words and expect us to accept them?

Filter your cringe

Okay, I get it. The “experiential experience” is, I suppose, the set of notable experiences that could happen at a location like this that would make you want to come and visit.

But if Mr. O’Malley really talks like that, it’s no wonder Bostonians are having trouble relating to Faneuil Hall. Surely we can find a better way to describe it. Like, say, “calendar of notable or entertaining events.” Say what you mean, people.

I hold the writer Dana Gerber guilty as well. If a person in authority says something absurd, you have two choices. You can point out the absurdity and use it to show the person is out of touch. Or you can just not quote it, if you feel the absurdity distracts from the point you’re trying to make.

What you can’t do is just put it in print like it’s normal now, and you’ve accepted it as a natural idiom of the English language.

That’s my take on the languagification of language, and I’m sticking to it.

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  1. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility the reporter used the quote specifically to make a point about the imagination, vision, and capabilities of the people who now are running the place …

  2. To your point about not quoting someone if their language is distracting:
    I am the editor of a newsletter for the Prison Mathematics Project. I sometimes receive letters I’d like to publish because the content is worthy, but the writer is illiterate. I’d like to know to what extent I can “fix” that language.

  3. I happen to be quite experienced with experiential experiences, especially existential ones that can only exponentially experienced experimentally. By experts.